Kimchi

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Autumn can be glorious, the trees blazing in fiery reds, dark greens, burnt oranges, gold and yellows. Crisp mornings invite to a brisk walk in the woodland, where rays of sunshine are breaking through the thinner tree canopies, chestnuts and acorns are dropping and deer browse on misty clearings. But autumn can be murky, grey and nondescript as well, it is not yet cold, but not really warm anymore, not dark but not bright either, some days are just murky. Though these days are not to be sniffed at, they are perfect for preserving, pickling or making the adequate antidote to the feeling of ambivalence: Kimchi. A pickle extraordinaire, the Korean condiment awakens any dish and tired taste buds, it is punchy without being too spicy, has a funky note from a short term of lacto-fermentation and dazzles with vibrant colour and flavour.

There are many Kimchi versions around, traditional and modern ones, shredded cabbage or whole leaf, some get pickled with oysters, there are seasonal Kimchis, special spring or autumn ones (and it really is not a good idea to make it in summer) or Mother-in-Law’s kimchi – once eaten, you’re hooked on this fabulous stuff. But the ultimate thrill is to make it at home and I never thought it would be that easy. I chose a whole leaf kimchi since I adore the neatness of an accurate cut block of chile-pickled Napa cabbage nesting in a little bowl along my plate of bibimbap, each beautiful screaming-red layer oozing a subtly sweet fermented scent.

While we are on the subject of scent, there is a good reason to choose a secluded nook for the kimchi to ferment in peace, if the kitchen is your only possibility then prepare yourself for an assertive smell, not a bad one but you’ll know it is kimchi you are hosting for 5 days. Are you in doubt now, it is definitely worth it though. This recipe makes a generous amount but it keeps for quite a while and can be enjoyed fresh for about 6 weeks and then another 6 weeks when cooked. Since it is so versatile there won’t be much leftover anyway and homemade kimchi is a really great gift.

 

More pickles to bring, more preserving to do and condiments to fashion: Gewürzgurken (German pickled cucumbers), pickled zucchini, green tomato, apple and zucchini chutney, green tomato jam, elderberry cordial, orange marmalade, vin d’orange, ginger elixir (for a great Extra Dark & Extra Stormy and other drinks), pickled mustard seeds.

 

 

whole leaf kimchi


Whole leaf kimchi

Makes about 8 cups or 6 jars. Adapted from Karen Solomon: Asian Pickles.

 

2.25kg / 5 lbs. Napa cabbage (about 2 heads)
60g / ½ cup Maldon sea salt (only a scant ½ cup if you are using regular salt, I recommend weighing)
3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
80g / ¼ cup gochujang (Korean chile paste)
2 tablespoons sugar
75g / ¾ cup gochugaru (Korean chile flakes)
9 garlic cloves, peeled
1 piece of ginger (5 cm / 2 inches)
2 tablespoons fish sauce

 

Discard tough and damaged outer leaves of the cabbages then cut only through the base of each head and separate the halves completely by pulling them apart lengthwise. Repeat this procedure to get quarters in dividing each half into two parts, again by cutting only through the base and pulling.

Beginning with the outer leaves, lightly sprinkle salt between the leaves of each cabbage quarter (more salt on the thick ends, less on the thin frilly leaves). It is easier to keep a bowl with the measured out amount of salt next to you while you work your way through the cabbage pieces. Place the salted sections on their backs (cut side up) head to toe in a 23 x 33cm (9×13 inch) glass or similar dish, making sure to pack them quite tightly. Lay surplus quarters on top. Cover with a board (that fits inside the dish) and weigh it down with 2.25kg (5 lbs.) – best to use those large tins you’ve got stashed in the larder. Turn the cabbage segments around (cut side down) after 30 minutes, replace board and weights and leave for another ½ hour.

Make the chile marinade: bring the water to a boil and stir in the flour, simmer for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken, whisk in chile paste (gochujang), sugar and chile flakes (gochugaru). Take off the heat. Finely chop garlic and ginger in a food processor, add chile-flour slurry as well as fish sauce and blitz the whole thing into a fine paste.

Take the limp cabbage pieces out of the dish, hold the bottom end up and squeeze each section from root end to leave tips to remove excess liquid. Pour away any collected liquid from the pan.

Take a cabbage segment, place it cut side up on a board and, starting with the bottom of the bigger outer leaves, spread 1 to 1½ teaspoon of the chile sauce onto each leaf. Fold the next cabbage leaf back and spread with sauce until each piece is complete. Return the sauced cabbage sections to the glass dish, packing them tightly and head to toe again. Pour any left over chile mixture over the top and make sure to work the sauce into the tiny frills of the leaf tips and the outsides – best to wear disposable rubber gloves for the chile-marinading process.

Position the dish onto a tray or larger rimmed dish, baking tray etc. to collect possible overflow and cover the cabbage loosely with plastic wrap. Important: do not cover and seal the entire dish, leave room for air to circulate! Set the wooden board on top of the covered cabbage quarters as well as the 2.25kg (5lbs.) weights. Loosely cover the whole contraption with a clean kitchen towel (to keep out dust or insects) and move to a cool & dark place*. Leave for 4 to 6 days until the kimchi emanates a pleasant (fermented) odour and has ripened to your liking. It is now ready to eat!

Cut off the root ends and divide each section into small squares, then place snugly in an airtight container or pack tightly into jars. Keep the kimchi in the fridge. The fresh kimchi can be eaten raw for at least 6 weeks, after that it can be used for cooking for at least another 6 weeks.

 

*A cool & dark place? A temporarily unused bathroom, cellar, garage, cool & protected outside space, porch, patio, balcony, shed…

 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

 

making kimchi


Kimchi aus ganzen Blättern

Ergibt 6 Gläser. Nach Karen Solomon: Asian Pickles.

 

2.25kg Chinakohl (ca. 2 Köpfe)
60g Maldon Meersalzflocken (oder reguläres Meersalz)
3 EL süßes Reismehl
80g Gochujang (Koreanische Chillipaste)
2 EL Zucker
75g Gochugaru (Koreanische Chilliflocken)
9 Knoblauchzehen, geschält
1 Stück Ingwer, ca. 5 cm
2 EL Fischsauce

 

Harte oder beschädigte äußere Blätter des Chinakohls entfernen. Die Köpfe am festen Blattansatz waagerecht einschneiden, dann die Hälften mit den Händen auseinanderziehen. Die Hälften nach dem gleichen Verfahren zerteilen, so daß man Viertel erhält.

Bei den äußeren Blättern beginnend jedes Blatt eines Kohlviertels mit Salz bestreuen (mehr auf die fleischigeren Blattenden, weniger auf die fragilen Blattspitzen) und sich so bis ins Innere vorarbeiten. Es ist einfacher, das abgewogene Salz in einem Schälchen neben dem Brett stehen zu haben um den Überblick über die Menge zu behalten und alle Kohlviertel zu salzen. Die Segmente dicht aneinander Kopf an Fuß mit den Schnittflächen nach oben in eine Glas- oder Keramikschale (23 x 33cm) legen, falls nicht alle nebeneinanderpassen können die restlichen Viertel auch obenauf gelegt werden. Den gesalzenen Chinakohl mit einem in die Schale passenden Brett bedecken und mit 2,25kg beschweren, das geht am besten mit Konservendosen. 30 Minuten einwirken lassen, dann die Kohlstücke umdrehen (Schnittfläche nach unten), wiederum mit Brett und Gewichten beschweren und weitere 30 Minuten weich werden lassen.

Währenddessen die Chillisauce herstellen: Wasser zum Kochen bringen, das Reismehl einrühren und für ca. 1-2 Minuten köcheln bis die Mixtur glatt ist und beginnt einzudicken. Dann die Chillipaste (Gochujang), Zucker und die Chilliflocken (gochugaru) unterrühren. Vom Herd nehmen. Knoblauch und Ingwer in der Küchenmaschine sehr fein hacken, die warme Chilli-Mehlpaste und Fischsauce dazugeben und das Ganze in der Küchenmaschine zu einer feinen Paste vermischen.

Die weichen Chinakohlsegmente aus der Schale nehmen und am Blattansatz beginnend vorsichtig die Flüssigkeit bis zu den Blattspitzen herausdrücken. Gegebenenfalls auch Flüssigkeit aus der Glasschale entfernen.

Dann ein Kohlviertel mit der Schnittseite nach oben auf ein Brett legen und von unten nach oben arbeitend jedes Blatt einzeln mit 1-1½ TL Chillisauce bestreichen bis alle Blätter bestrichen sind. Die fertigen Chillikohlstückchen wieder in die Glasschale legen und diese Kopf an Fuß (jedes zweite Stück andersherum) dicht aneinander packen. Restliche Chillisauce darübergießen und mit den Händen (Einmalhandschuhe anziehen!) von den Unterseiten bis in die Blattspitzen verteilen.

Die Schale auf ein Tablett oder eine größere Form mit Rand stellen (um eventuelle Überläufe aufzufangen) und den Chinakohl locker mit Frischhaltefolie bedecken. Wichtig: nur den Kohl und nicht das ganze Gefäß abdecken, Luft muß noch zirkulieren können! Das Brett darauflegen sowie die Gewichte (2,25kg) und das Ganze mit einem Küchentuch vor Staub und Insekten etc. schützen. An einem dunklen und kühlen Ort* für 4 bis 6 Tage aufbewahren bis das Kimchi angenehm fermentiert riecht und nach Geschmack gereift ist. Jetzt kann das Kimchi schon gegessen werden!

Die Blattansätze abschneiden und jedes Segment in kleine Quadrate aufteilen, diese entweder dicht aneinander in einen luftdichten Behälter packen oder dicht in Gläser füllen und das Kimchi im Kühlschrank aufbewahren. Frisches Kimchi kann für mindestens 6 Wochen roh verzehrt werden, danach kann es noch für mindestens 6 weitere Wochen zum Kochen gebraucht werden.

 

* Ein dunkler, kühler Ort? Am besten einer mit guter Lüftung: Zum Beispiel ein temporär nicht genutztes Badezimmer, Keller, Garage, eine geschützte Stelle draußen auf der Terrasse, dem Balkon, im Garten, im Schuppen…

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Kimchi

  1. I have a confession to make – I don’t like fermented vegetables. But I think if anyone could convert me, you could, because this looks and sounds delicious. Not so sure about the smells though! Lx

    • Oh, Linda, they are so good. No sauerkraut either?
      But the kimchi is definitely worth a try, it gives everything a certain something that you never knew you were missing but now can’t live without! Re smell: use the shed.
      N xx

      • I ate a lot of kimchi in Korea. Never really warmed to it (so to speak). Sauerkraut? Sorry, I know you’re German but I can’t bear it. Still think your kimchi looks lovely, though. 🙂

      • Kimchi in Korea, nobody could say you did not try. Never mind about not liking sauerkraut, happens (if you change your mind, I’ve got a choucroute royale recipe on the blog). My pet hate are eggs pickled in malt vinegar, the smell reminds me of those ‘funny’ chemistry experiments. 😉 N

      • How much salt is he using? Perhaps Bittman’s take is more akin to refrigerator pickles which are more perishable? I’ve gone with Karen Solomon’s recipe (see link to her ‘Asian pickles’ book) and the Kimchi was perfectly fine to eat fresh for even more than 6 weeks. If you are interested, Sandor Katz’s book on Fermentation gives you all the background information. N.

  2. Oh my goodness. You made your own kimchi. Amazing. I really like kimchi and usually just buy as needed, which is kind of ridiculous since they only really sell it here in copious amounts. I may as well just use your easy and wonderful recipe. I always feel a little bad that I’m not one of those Korean grandmas burying the kimchi in the backyard. I guess this will have to do. Very lovely recipe and the fact that you made kimchi look gorgeous is a testament to your skill as well. Thanks for sharing this. Impressive.

    • Thank you so very much for the kind praise and wonderful words, Amanda. I agree, burying the kimchi pots in the backyard would be fantastic & rather more authentic (plus handily eliminating the odor wafting through confined spaces) but I was so blown away. Remember we were talking about our Korean week making Kimchi and the lovely pancakes? That was great one. N xx

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